I have to tell you a secret. I like to bake sweet stuff. Cookies and cake and pies and cobblers (Not all for home consumption- we like to share the wealth!) Give me a dessert, and I'll make it! I'm not quite so strong or diverse in the appetizer department. I think a lot of women (and those men that cook, too) have this same weakness. Take a look at the buffet table next time you go to a potluck or holiday gathering. At a potluck, you'll find a variety of casseroles, perhaps some ham on rolls, a plate of deviled eggs, a plate (or several) of veggies and dip, depending on the occasion, you might find a bag of Taco Bell, or a bucket of KFC, and a whole table filled with assorted desserts. This is the problem with potlucks and parties that request you "just bring something, you know, a dessert or an appetizer." Appetizers are supposed to whet our appetites for the main course; they also provide extra filling in your stomach so that you aren't tempted to overdo it with dessert. Therefore, at least in my mind, fewer appetizers = more desserts. And too many desserts = tummy ache, a la the Good Ship Lollypop; also = weight gain.
So I've decided that I need to branch out more and find some good appetizer type dishes to bring to the gatherings that are coming up.
Here's the first new dish in my repertoire. Several people told me how good it was, but I still think it needs tweaking:
1 block cream cheese, softened
4 oz hot pepper jelly
5 oz shredded sharp cheddar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Blend everything together with a mixer, or by hand. Pour batter into a greased 6" spring form pan. Bake at 350*F for 30-35 min. Spread a little jelly over the top before serving, if desired.
I did a couple things differently from this recipe. First off, I added a couple of tablespoons of my last batch of ricotta cheese.
Secondly, the pepper jelly I made this year was not so hot. It tastes good, just lacks the spiciness you would hope for.I think the scotch bonnets I bought were not actually scotch bonnets, but a milder pepper.
So I put in the 1/2 cup of pepper jelly, and then I added a hand full of thai peppers. You know, the tiny ones. Mostly, I removed the seeds and membranes before chopping; there were about 5 that I chopped up and threw in the bowl with the seeds and membranes.
It needed to be used. Thirdly, I didn't have a 6" spring form, so I just used an old glass dish that I have, probably 6"x4". Maybe smaller on the 6" side. It worked just fine.
Now, when I put this out at the party, I put a note next to it that it was spicy. There were kids there, and I didn't want anyone to start a fire in their mouth. But I think the note caused it to be largely avoided. At least until the end of the party. Then the hostess came into the kitchen, famished from not having eaten in several hours, and raved about it. She made all her family come in and try it too. I had very little left to bring home.
Just a note, though, when you're working with hot peppers, wear gloves. Simply washing your hands afterward (even 4 or 5 times) does not get the capsaicin oils off your hands. This means that if you do anything like touch your face or put your contacts in, you will burn what you touch. Think of it as really concentrated pepper spray. Trust me.
What's cooking in your kitchen?